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J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2008 Dec;112(4-5):171-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jsbmb.2008.10.002. Epub 2008 Oct 8.

Phytoestrogen-mediated inhibition of proliferation of the human T47D breast cancer cells depends on the ERalpha/ERbeta ratio.

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Toxicology Section, Wageningen University, Tuinlaan 5, 6703 HE Wageningen, The Netherlands.


This study investigates the importance of the intracellular ratio of the two estrogen receptors ERalpha and ERbeta for the ultimate potential of the phytoestrogens genistein and quercetin to stimulate or inhibit cancer cell proliferation. This is of importance because (i) ERbeta has been postulated to play a role in modulating ERalpha-mediated cell proliferation, (ii) genistein and quercetin may be agonists for both receptor types and (iii) the ratio of ERalpha to ERbeta is known to vary between tissues. Using human osteosarcoma (U2OS) ERalpha or ERbeta reporter cells it was shown that compared to estradiol (E2), genistein and quercetin have not only a relatively greater preference for ERbeta but also a higher maximal potential for activating ERbeta-mediated gene expression. Using the human T47D breast cancer cell line with tetracycline-dependent ERbeta expression (T47D-ERbeta), the effect of a varying intracellular ERalpha/ERbeta ratio on E2- or pythoestrogen-induced cell proliferation was characterised. E2-induced proliferation of cells in which ERbeta expression was inhibited was similar to that of the T47D wild type cells, whereas this E2-induced cell proliferation was no longer observed when ERbeta expression was increased. With increased expression of ERbeta the phytoestrogen-induced cell proliferation was also reduced. These results point at the importance of the cellular ERalpha/ERbeta ratio for the ultimate effect of (phyto)estrogens on cell proliferation.

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